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Testimony of Major Deborah K. Sirrat

On October 28, 2009, Deborah Kay Sirrat PhD, a major in the United States Air Force, was a witness at the sentencing hearing of Mr. Ali al-Marri (see Death in Guantánamo: Suicide or Dryboarding?). As such, she was examined by Mr. David E. Risley, Assistant United States Attorney, and cross-examined by Mr. Lawrence Lustberg, Gibbons PC, both in open court. This has been entered into the public record (see Al-Marri Sentencing Hearing, Volume I and Volume II). CSHRA has consulted that record and extracted from it the following passages.

[Page 116]

Q    [by Mr. Risley] Will you state your name?
A    Deborah Kay Sirratt.

[Page 117]

Q    Can you spell your last name?
A     S-I-R-R-A-T-T.
Q     What is your occupation?
A     Psychologist.
Q     And we can tell by your uniform you're serving in the military; is that correct?
A     Yes, sir.
Q     In the Air Force?
A     Yes, sir.
Q     What is your rank?
A     Major.
Q     Would you tell us a little bit about, in summary fashion, about your professional education?
A     I have a bachelor's degree in international studies and Russian Slavic studies, I have a master's degree in
       psychology and a Ph.D. in psychology.
Q     Where did you obtain your Ph.D.?
A     University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee.
Q     Could you tell us a little bit about your post-doctoral training, professional training, particularly as it relates to terrorist psychology?
A     I completed a residency at Wilford Hall and then I received training, Behavioral Science Consultation Team training, for three weeks in October of 2007 down at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

[Page 118]

Q     Did that relate to terrorists or terrorism?
A     Correct. That training was actually a three-week required training before I went down and served at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba […]

[Page 139]

Q     [by Mr. Lustberg] Hi, Dr. Sirratt.
A     Hello, sir.
Q     I'm Larry Lustberg. I'm one of the attorneys for Mr. al-Marri.
A     Yes, sir […]

[Page 156]

Q     [by Mr. Lustberg] Doctor, when you stepped off we were discussing your Guantanamo experience. Just to recap, Doctor, you were in Guantanamo from when to when?
A     Late October, maybe the 26th through the 27th, 2007 to 31 May 2008.

[Page 157]

Q     So from October '07 until May '08?
A     Yes, sir […]

[Page 192]

Q     By the way, have you dealt with people before who have lived in that sort of isolation that Mr. al-Marri lived in?
A      Not until I went to Guantanamo.
Q      As a psychologist, what did you note about the way it makes people behave, being isolated like that?
A      I think it's very tough on people.
Q      And how do they react to that toughness?
A      I think we're all social beings, so when we're more isolated it tears people apart pretty quickly.
Q      So what kind of symptomatology do they develop as a result of that kind of isolation?
A      I'm trying to find the right words. Usually people struggle.
Q      Anxiety?
A      Anxiety. People tend to pay attention to noises like that, you know, the smaller things, the little things.
Q      Let me stop you. So you become sort of --
A       Hypersensitive.
Q      Hypersensitive, right, to things like fans? You pointed to that fan, right?
A      Right.
Q      And in other sensory things? And were you aware that during the first part of Mr. al-Marri's custody that he

[Page 193]

was in a situation of really extreme sensory deprivation where it was just him in a room and just a metal bed and
essentially nothing else?
A      That was my understanding.
Q      And based on your experience as a psychologist, would you expect that to have any kind of effects on him?
A       I would expect that would have an impact, yes.
Q       What would that impact be do you think?
A       I would expect the person to have some lingering impacts, lingering effects […]